Manchester may be famous for many things but if there’s one thing that can be said about the city, it’s this: Mancunians know how to party. “I’ve been told by numerous DJs who come to play at our shows that they love playing in Manchester, that its their favorite gig to play in the world because the people are so friendly, that people love to go crazy and let loose and most importantly that they really know the music.” Speaking with Lee Spence, it doesn’t take long to ascertain the man knows a thing or two about clubbing in the city. As the brains behind one of Manchester’s most cherished imprints Kaluki the club night has evolved into an internationally renowned brand that is fundamentally celebrated for possessing it’s original party ethos that made it so successful from the beginning. Not half bad for a night that was born within the murky confines of a basement back in 2006.
Fast forward almost a decade Kaluki has built up a solid reputation as the night to see the worlds most respected house & techno DJ’s, with a focus on offering the best experience possible within Manchester’s greatest spaces. This of course isn’t a trait that simply came naturally, but one that came to fruition during one of the final raves at the legendary Sankeys Soap, before going on to host an infamous residency at the re-born Sankeys during an illustrious 6 year run.
Becoming synonymous with quality programming it’s no surprise Kaluki music – the brands record label – was formed. Curated principally to uncover exciting strands of house & techno often test run on its dancefloor from it’s roster including Pete Zorba, Max Chapman, Jozef K & Jamie Trench amongst others, the imprint has garnered serious attention with recent tours across Europe and North America to showcase it’s increasingly influential sound.
With residencies now being held at Gorilla and the Royal Albert Hall in addition to shows at the world-renowned Fabric in London and Space in Ibiza it’s no surprise the likes of Marco Carola, Hot Since 82 & Skream have all graced the stage over the past year as the crew gear up for one of their biggest & most exciting line ups to date on Sunday 7th June.
Having firmly established itself as one of the biggest weekenders in the UK festival calendar, Park Life has become much more than a celebration of UK sounds, with the likes of Nas, Wu Tang Clan, Caribou & Kaytranada joining the likes of Disclosure & Rudimental on headline duty within the expansive confines of Heaton Park this year. Yet away from the main stage the biggest brands in electronic music will be showcasing the best on offer across eight star-studded stages. Looking ahead to their own curated line up and celebrating a long and prodigious relationship with the festival, we caught up with Kaluki founder and resident Lee Spence to discuss the brands beginnings, it’s love for Manchester, why Park Life is one of the best and what to expect from the artists playing this year’s Kaluki stage.
For those unaware how did the Kaluki concept come to fruition and how has it developed since?
It started as one of the final events at sankeys soap in 2006. The club was about to close and I was the promotions manager for the venue at the time. We were given a tough date, and told to do our best. We managed to sell the club out, and once the club re opened as sankeys in 2007 – kaluki was given a residency on the second Saturday of every month. This lasted for 6 years!
Now widely regarded as one of Manchester’s most loved club nights, were there any particular obstacles you’ve faced in establishing the night over the past decade?
We have had some ups and downs and have had to make some big decisions, in order to keep the event moving forwards. It was a tough decision to leave sankeys after 6 years, especially as we had an even deeper connection with the club and its owner. But we decided to start a new chapter, and work with the warehouse project and Parklife Festival and we have really enjoyed this partnership over the past 3 years!
Having previously called Sankeys your home, what have people come to expect from your residencies at Gorilla? Was the transition to the venue an easy one?
We use Gorilla for a lot of our shows, at we love the space and it works well for our more intimate Manchester shows with capacity at 600. We have had some great nights at gorilla over that past couple of years, our regulars love the club and the team behind gorilla are really cool and good to work with so I can see us doing more events at gorilla in the future.
With the likes of Hot Since 82 and Patrick Topping having recently headlined & with Skream & Marco Carola forthcoming your programming for the year could hardly be stronger. How meticulous is the process when curating each line up?
Its probably not as scientific a you would think. We just pick our favorite Djs and people in general. We like to work with Djs who we know will play an amazing set, and also that we connect with and have a good time… at the end of the day… that’s what this is all about… having fun with great music and great people!
Kaluki has developed on a multi-platform basis with festival shows and a bourgeoning record label making it’s mark, how important is this in today’s industry?
Yeah I think the events and the label are intertwined and feed off each other. The label can help us reach people globally, when we look at our data, people are buying our music all over the world, and that’s really important to us, as we are building up to our 10th anniversary world tour in 2016. Also it helps to break new talent that we discover, both locally and further a field. So yeah, I think this has proved to be very important for us.
Looking ahead to the summer this will be Kaluki’s fourth year running at Manchester’s all-conquering Park Life, what is it about the festival that makes it so special?
I think Manchester has always had this special atmosphere, in its nightclubs and warehouse parties over the past twenty or even thirty years. I’ve been told by numerous DJs who come to play at our shows that they love playing in Manchester, that its their favorite gig to play in the world because the people are so friendly, that people love to go crazy and let loose and most importantly that they really know the music. As Tony Wilson once said, ‘kids from Manchester have the best record collections in the world’. So I think now that Manchester has one of the best festivals in the UK in Parklife, its great to see that special atmosphere amplified with over 100,000 people going mental in Heaton Park across the weekend.
Looking back what’s been the key to the Kaluki stage’s success over the years? Is there a particular set or moment that stands out?
Well its been great each time, but in our first year at platt fields, the weather was really bad and our tent was a little isolated from the rest of the festival.. so it was great to see the tent full to the rafters by the end of the day, and actually ‘one in one out’ by the time Heidi closed the tent at the end of the festival.
It’s evident you’ve gone for a friends & family vibe with the line up fundamentally made up of Kaluki regulars, can you tell us a bit about the artists and what they will bring to the stage?
Yeah the line up is mainly artists that we have worked with previously, that we really love working with and we have a strong relationship with. We are aiming to bring the usual kaluki party vibe to the stage all day long, we have a lot of people coming to see us from all over the place… I think we might need a bigger stage!!
Crucially it wouldn’t be a real Park Life festival without an after party, what can you tell us about this years?
Well I cant say too much right now, but we are working with afterlife to bring a very special afterparty to one of Manchester coolest venue’s, we aim to finish the weekend off on a high… all will be revealed very soon!
And lastly with this year set to be your busiest to date where would you like to see Kaluki in a few years time? Any further plans for expansion?
Yes we are currently working on our 10th anniversary for 2016, starting in Mexcio at BMP festival and working our through North and south America through feb and march, so that is really exciting for us. There are also some cool shows that will be announced in the coming weeks, festivals, fabric dates a big 9th birthday in the pipeline…. so stay tuned to our socials!
Please could you introduce the acts on your stage with a track for each?
Jamie Jones – Rukus – Hot Creatiuons . this tracks a few years old but still a great record, sound sgreat in the sun!
Dixon – Ian Pooley – Comprhythm – Dixon 4/4 Treatment – A big track that brings back great memories from our 7th anniversary at WHP 2013.
Adam – Tiga & Audion – Lets Go Dancing – Adam Beyer remix. HUUGE remix , doesn’t get much bigger, we are really looking forward to Adamd set at PL.
Richy Ahmed – The Drums – Richies big track on HC, Jacking, Groovy with a massive bassline and Raw Hi Hats!
Route 94 – Cowboy – Leftroom Records. This was big track on the space ibizaterrace when Route 94 played for Kaluki last year.
Break A sweat by wAFF & Cuartero. Patrick Topping remix
This Patrick Topping remix is still smashing up the dancefloor at every kaluki show…
Pirate Copy – Talk That Pimp Shit. This release brings back memories of Jamie Jones dropping the remix at the Circo Loco closing party!
Maya Jane Coles – The Acid – Ghost (MJC remix) love this remix of The Acid, we loved the original and then this amazing remix turns up!
Kaluki Present Jamie Jones, Dixon, Adam Beyer & many more at Park Life on Sunday June 7th 2015, tickets here.